Let us once and for all get rid of the idea that the body, in itself, is something of which to be ashamed. Although some religious theories disparage the body, they thereby proclaim their lack of Scriptural basis, for God takes a high view of it and accords it an honourable place in His scheme of things.
Neither are the natural functions of the body any occasion for low thinking, for God created man with a body designed to respond to the environment in which He placed it, and to depend for its well-being on the fulfilment of its constructional requirements. Religious thought readily dispenses with the body, conditioned as such thought is to nebulous "spiritual" concepts, such as that of a "soul" (superior to the body) which can float about in an ethereal never-never land, and speak and think and feel without tongue or mind or touch. On the contrary, the body is an indispensable part of the whole man, for the Scriptures know nothing of the teaching that man can consciously exist without a body, either before or after death.
The logical simplicity of the creative act is devastating, and, once believed, frees us for ever from unhealthy speculation about the nature of man, alive or dead. And the record is plain-- the body comes from the soil, the spirit comes from God, and the combination produces a living soul. The soul, the seat of sensation, is the person, the consciousness, the ego, but it cannot exist in a vacuum. Without the combination of body and spirit there is no soul.
The death process is the reversal of the creative to some degree--not of the original creative act which produced the first man but a reversal in respect of the return of man to his elements. Scripture states that the body returns to the soil, whence it came, the spirit returns to God Who gave it, and the soul goes into the unseen, from whence it can be recalled only by the re-union in resurrection of the body and spirit which together comprise it.
These simple and Scriptural facts, once believed, show how fantastic are those theories of death which claim that a state of consciousness exists even though the body is dead--on the evidence of Scripture such a thing is impossible.
Our bodies are the means whereby our souls make contact with our earthly environment on the one hand, even as our spirits are the souls connective with the equally real spiritual forces of the universe on the other. By means of the body we receive impressions from the things of earth which surround us, and we are accordingly affected for good or ill according to our reactions, and in a similar way the spirit communicates to our consciousness the realisation of spiritual influences.
The human body is composed of material elements, and matter is not evil, nor are the bodys natural uses at variance with the will of God; indeed, such a thought is entirely precluded by the fact that the Sinless One became flesh and dwelt in a human body. The fact that we care for our bodies and nourish them is recognised as being perfectly right and proper:--
"Thus, husbands too ought to be loving their own wives as their own bodies. . . . for no one at any time hates his own flesh, but is nourishing and cherishing it." (Eph. 5, 28-29).
Let us be careful to draw a distinction between the body, as such, and "the old humanity" of Ephesians 4, 22. Our bodies themselves are not sinful, but when they are ruled by the old humanity they become the instruments of sin, although the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh (II. Cor. 4, ii).
And yet Paul speaks of our bodies as being "our humiliation" (Phil. 3, 20-21). To fully understand his meaning we must realise the nature of our present salvation, and its relationship to us in spirit and in the flesh. Indeed, to appreciate the radical nature of salvation we must see it in a racial perspective, for the saving act of Christ has universal racial consequences, as wide-embracing as that act of the First Adam which condemned the whole race to death, for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Adams act of disobedience brought upon the whole race the penalty of death, for from the moment of sinning he forfeited the continuous inexhaustible life which until then had vitalised his whole being. A process of death began in him which ultimately brought him to the soil from whence he had been taken, a process which affected the whole man (not his body only) and to all his descendants Adam transmitted a body which was devitalised and dying, no longer immortal. And irrespective of their personal acts of sin, the sons of Adam all inherit the legacy of a humanity in which death is continually at work. It is, of course, the possession of this devitalised humanity which makes it inevitable that all humanity should sin, the process of death in us affecting the heart and the mind and the will, and we miss the mark because we are cut off from the source of life.
The saving act of God in Christ gives life to the spirit; it enjoys a new humanity and "the spirit is life because of righteousness" yet sin remains in the body and "the body is dead because of sin." But the saving act of God in Christ is a complete salvation from death and from sin, and its action is progressive until we are entirely free from them. It begins in the spirit and we are vivified, made alive in spirit, and ultimately that new humanity which is already ours in spirit will include our bodies also, so that no longer will our physical and spiritual lives be mutually antagonistic. Paul expresses it thus :--
"those, too, who have the firstfruit of the spirit, we ourselves, too, are groaning in ourselves, awaiting the sonship, the deliverance of our bodies" (Rom. 8, 23).
In fact the Apostle states that the whole creation longs to be free from "the slavery of corruption "--a telling phrase summing up the continuous rule of death, but those who have received the firstfruit of the spirit have a deeper and more intense longing for release, since the enlightenment we have now from God has brought into vivid contrast our living spirits, vitally linked with Christ Himself, and the dying, earthbound bodies which hold us down and humiliate us.
If it were not for the weight of physical incapacity, the inability to walk according to spirit and the shrinking of the flesh, to what heights we might ascend! But truly, our bodies do humiliate us
This is particularly apparent when we try to give practical expression in daily life to the spiritual truths we know well :--
"For I am gratified with the law of God as to the inner man, yet I am observing a different law in my members warring with the law of my mind, and leading me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Rom. 7, 23).
So then, until our bodies are delivered from the operating power of death they will be a source of constant humiliation, but it is important to note Paul does not say that we seek deliverance from the body, or even imply that it is an encumbrance which will be cast aside. Salvation will be complete, and even as we now enjoy deliverance of the spirit from the power of death and sin, so should we look forward with longing to the culminating deliverance of our bodies from the same power.
"For in this we are groaning, longing to be dressed in our habitation which is from heaven, if so be that, being dressed, we shall not be found naked. For we also, who are in the tabernacle, are groaning, being burdened, not that we want to be stripped, but to be dressed, that the mortal may be swallowed up by life." (II. Cor. 5, 1-5).
Paul emphasises that he does NOT want to be naked, stripped, as he would be if he died. He seeks a full salvation which will deliver him from the mortality of body which encumbers and humiliates him and causes him to groan inwardly, a salvation which will make his body living, immortal, to accord with his vivified spirit.
Such a body can never become diseased and can never die, but at present we have bodies which are lacking the glory of
God and still retain and transmit the mortality bequeathed to us by Adam, in whom all die. Thus we are still prone to sinning, and are consequently humiliated and distressed.
So we look for the Saviour "Who will transfigure the body of our humiliation, to conform it to His body glorious." (Phil. 3, 20-21).
But in the meantime, there remains a way in which our mortal bodies can be brought into closer conformity with our spiritual standing in Christ. Paul explains it--
"I am entreating you then, brethren, by the pity of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, well pleasing to God, your logical divine service" (Rom. 12, 1-2).
The implication of this is that the grace of God can overcome the power of death in our bodies which forces us into Sinning, and the spirit of God can dominate and subdue the law of sin in our members. To realise that we are" dead to sin" (for we died together with Christ) enables us to act in the consciousness of the fact and " put to death the practices of the body." The reign of sin has been overthrown for us, and the presence of sin remaining in our bodies is negatived in the degree of our refusal to allow it to operate in our bodies--on the ground that we are dead to sin, having died to it in Christs death on the cross.
It is a serious error for us to neglect the practical aspect of salvation, for no amount of intellectual appreciation of Gods revelation can be of value without a corresponding effect on our daily lives. Paul always gives as much attention to practice as he does to doctrine, and if we fail to do likewise our loss in every way will be immense. Certainly a walk that is truly pleasing to God must be preceded by sound doctrine, but to quote the words of another, "he can dispense with a philosophy of salvation who is a walking model of Gods grace."
In spirit, in Christ Jesus, we are flawless in Gods sight and righteous as He is righteous, but our bodies are not yet in Christ Jesus and are still subject to the universal human law of sin and death. Yet God seeks these bodies which humiliate us, so that He may use them in the performance of those good acts which delight Him. Dead bodies they may be because of sin, yet He can accept them as a living sacrifice for His use and pleasure. So we can either allow sin to use our bodies as instruments of unrighteousness, or present them to God so that sin may use them no longer.
"Are you not aware that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price. You ought to glorify God in your body." (I. Cor. 6, 19-20).
Paul, it will be remembered, desired to magnify God in his body whether through life or death (Phil. I, 20; I. Cor. 9, 27). While God is using the body sin cannot possibly do so. Until the day of deliverance our mortal bodies will humiliate us-- but WE SHALL BE CHANGED, and even as we now wear the image of the soulish, so shall we wear the image of the celestial also (I. Cor. 15, 49). Our humiliating earthly bodies will become like His glorious body.
"For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality. Now, whenever this corruptible should put on incorruption and this mortal put on immortality, then shall come to pass the word which has been written 'Death is swallowed up by victory!"
And so we await the Saviour and the crowning completeness of salvation in the day when all humiliation will be gone, and the song we now sing in expectation will then ring gloriously from immortal lips-- "Thanks be to God, Who is giving us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
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